Done Somebody Wrong
Leave My Blues at Home
Come and Go Blues
Worried Down With the Blues
Blind Willie McTell
Hot ‘lanta > All Along the Watchtower > Hot ‘lanta (w/Bill Evans, sax)
Working Class Hero
All My Friends
The Needle and the Damage Done
Dreams (w/Nels Cline, gtr) >
Spanish Key (Cline, Evans) >
Mountain Jam (Cline, Evans)
You Don’t Love Me
This one was a corker.
The band rolls off into the shuffle that heralds “Done Somebody Wrong,” Warren assaying lines over the top. Then he hops half a turn to face Derek, and his slide lines intertwine with Derek’s shuffle chording… then they crisscross, and Warren is chording and Derek is sliding. Derek hangs a note and ambles over to Gregg with it, and Gregg is off into the song. It’s especially loose, like your favorite pair of old sneakers; a nice start, everyone is firing on all cylinders, with lots of stellar slide work.”Leave My Blues at Home” is solid and taut; a fake ending gives way to the drummers. and now the band is shoveling coal onto a hot fire on a positively searing, extended one chord frenzy.
After “Come and Go Blues” Warren offers up “Worried Down.” An incendiary Derek excursion pulls applause form the eager house, then a simply sublime Warren leads the band in smoldering, perfect unhurried time. This is a theme all evening– the band occupying the songs fully in the moment, in no hurry, letting the music come to them with all the time in the world. Next a shimmering “Bag End,” with Derek playing a bunch of scratchy slide; then a deep dark soulful “Blind Willie McTell.”
On “Revival,” after the initial song run-through they open it up, look inside, all curiosity and no rush, Warren offering up a little ‘Fly Me to the Moon,” till eventually the music becomes a hard jam that charges back into the song riff. “People can you feel it?” is a full-on group happy dance.
Next “Hot ‘lanta” comes on, which augers well given what they did with it last Saturday night. Again, after running through the piece, there’s basically a hard stop in place of the drum break; Oteil does a snaky dance, taking the band into territory that’s kinda “Kind of Bird.” Bill Evans has come on, and he blows like crazy, man, skronky dissonant bop sax that eases into “Watchtower.” Warren plays the intro lines from the Hendrix version, and they’re big and tiny at the same time; he sings the hell out of the vocals. Derek fills the room with tone, then sad urgent leading lines. Evans wanders over center stage from outside right to see what all the fuss is about, and trades call-and-response licks with Derek; then Warren joins the huddle on rhythm; then Warren plays sweet, redolent, resiny licks that give way to the vocals again. (At this point the guy next to me turns and observes, “The pacing is great tonight.” he’s spot on.) Derek coaxes tiny, Whoville cries of delight, then he’s ringing, and now it’s a descending run, down, down… and it’s back to “Hot ‘lanta.” Exquisite.
The acoustic set after intermission opens with a nice “Working Class Hero,” the John Lennon song, then “All My Friends” and “Needle and the Damage Done,” the later featuring some lovely Derek slide work; Gregg handles the vocals, and yeah, he’s got a right to sing that one. Then one foot in acoustic, one in electric for “Melissa.”
Coming out of “Melissa” there is a thundering rumble approaching off in the distance, like a herd on the move… it is Oteil, who lays out da funk, which gives way to a jaunty jam. Warren adds some slide accents, Derek and the drums lock on, and it is “Rocking Horse.” Out of the vocal section Warren’s lead is supported by intertwining Derek and Oteil chording and smoking. There’s a smash into a stop for the transition, then Oteil rings out on bass as the music falls out of time, until finally Derek saddles up the palomino and takes the band into what I’ve taken to calling “Derek’s Tune,” the major key instrumental piece they play in the middle of the “Horse.” Then back into “Horse,” and Warren piledrives it to a close, but the music doesn’t actually stop, it just sort of spills over a little, as Wilco’s Nels Cline comes onstage between Derek and Oteil, looking cool and lanky, and once he’s all situated, they roll into “Dreams.” I’m always impressed when a guest sits in on this one. Right out of the box, Cline takes a beautiful, Allman Brothers-ish solo. Warren throbs with tone, then Nels soars, jerking the neck of his strat (or strat-shaped guitar, I was too far to tell) upward with each bend. Then Derek plays some high loping lines, and then the three-man ring-out. Rock solid…
…out of “Dreams,” Oteil throbs and pulsates, Cline tosses off chords, licks, Evans comes out and joins in; Derek and Warren stand at the front of the stage, but don’t yet join in on what is now “Spanish Key.” (I’m reminded that choosing not to play is a valid artistic choice.) Evans blows, Cline races up and down the neck, all jazzy and watery and electric as the two of them swap lines that must surely have been brewed by bitches. Cline goes all freak jazz, then lays out watery, shimmering sheets, the full band now behind him. It’s a great version, rocking around the Oteil/Cline/Evans axis, and the perfect vehicle to show off the chops of these two particular guests… out of “Key,” or more like in the middle of it, Butch gives you the bum-bada-bum-bada bum timpani and the music kind of blossoms into “Mountain Jam.” Everyone takes a turn, Evans keeping it jazzy, then Derek points over at Oteil, who vamps over the drummers, then joins them for a relatively short drum solo section. Then the guitars (all three of them) enter softly as Oteil returns from the drum kit to the front line, Butch booms, then back into the riffs, and a big noisy closing crescendo.
The encore is a structured “You Don’t Love Me,” without Evans and Cline, a solid version that hews close to “One Way Out.”
All in all this was a great show. The vibe was totally groovy all night, lots of room in the music. Evans on the “Hot ‘lanta/Watchtower” piece raised it up a notch, then the extended section in the second set with Evans and Cline made it truly special. Some guests can seem shoehorned into the mix, but tonight music was made that reflected both the core bedrock of what the Allmans do, and the distinct contributions of their guests, and I’d say Cline especially was a revelation.
I’m off now till Wednesday, then at the last three shows.